Optimizing plant growth in marginal climates
Cell division is the fundamental unit of plant productivity. Plant and animal stem cells absolutely require low oxygen levels (hypoxia), and reduction/oxidation (redox) signaling is important for stem cell proliferation and differentiation. Exactly how these functions operate in plants is largely unknown.
Since ~2011 our knowledge of oxygen signaling has rapidly advanced. We know several targets of plant oxygen signaling, but key parts of the puzzle are still missing. In particular, there is strong evidence that oxygen and redox affect the activity of TOR kinase, which is a master regulator of cell division. However, evidence is conflicting, which suggests there are targets and interactions yet to be discovered.
Plants with discrete mutations in oxygen or redox signaling pathways show a number of unexplained developmental phenotypes. These include increased branching patterns. As branching is a critical determinant of plant yield, it will be important to understand these mechanisms.
Finally, our knowledge of plant growth at the molecular/ genomic level is largely limited to annual species, leaving woody perennials behind. Perennial species have a unique life cycle, entering dormancy, a sustained and seasonal cessation of growth, over the autumn and winter. Our group have over 10 years’ experience in research on the dormancy of grapevine, and how redox and oxygen signaling are important regulators. There is much yet to be explored.
To discover the key gene/ protein interactions and epigenetic changes that regulate:
- Cell division and meristem activity.
- Shoot and root branching patterns.
- The depth and cycles of dormancy in perennial plants
Several project opportunities include:
- Discover novel regulators of the TOR kinase through protein/protein and protein/gene interaction studies.
- Discover how oxygen and redox signaling regulate DNA methylation through genomic and genetic approaches.
- Decipher how redox signaling regulates bud dormancy in grapevine through physiology and biochemical approaches.
- Develop transgenic grapevines to study redox control of cell division and dormancy.
I am a plant molecular physiologist, with an interest in plant developmental transitions. I hold an ARC Future Fellowship in the CoE Plant Energy Biology, in the School of Molecular Sciences. My research spans molecular, lab based studies through to field-based studies, as I have a history of collaboration with the fruit industry in WA. I am also more generally interested in genetics and genomics and currently sit on the national Gene Technology Technical Advisory Committee and Institutional Biosafety Committee.
Funding and Collaborations
- Australian Research Council Future Fellowship (FT180100409) 2019-23
- DPIRD perennial crops 2020-24
- Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development (DAFWA).
- Prof Christine Foyer, University of Birmingham
How to Apply
- To be accepted into the Doctor of Philosophy, an applicant must demonstrate they have sufficient background experience in independent supervised research to successfully complete, and provide evidence of English language proficiency
- Requirements are project-specific, projects will be tailored to the applicant’s skills. A sound knowledge of plant or animal development is desired.
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